Newsweek's Dumb (And Sexist) Sarah Palin Cover

Newsweek's Dumb (And Sexist) Sarah Palin Cover


Why oh why oh why oh why?

They gave her an incredibly easy way to ignore the more substantive arguments against her legitimacy as a candidate and focus on their dumb decision to run with the above nonsense.

And this isn’t just coming from her corner. It’s coming from Media Matters and other voices in the liberal blogosphere.

As they put it…

Newsweek offers some interesting analysis of Palin and her appeal in its November 23 issue. Unfortunately, its sexist treatment of Palin’s physical appearance distracts from any legitimate arguments the magazine and its contributors wish to make.

It’s such a stupid decision it boggles the mind. You run a original head shot of her in this situation, not rerun some picture from Runner’s World.

Jon Meachum is calling the shots over there, and his response to all this is inane…

We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do.

We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard.

Yeah, so when’s the last time they ran a photo of any other politician wearing shorts?

Good lord…

  • Simon

    The whole cover–note only the photo–is offensive, and it’s instructive to compare it to the sort of cover that they would never dream of running.

  • Brad Templeman

    Just like with Letterman, it plays into Palin’s strength: being a victim of the ‘elite’ sensibility. They had to have known it would be controversial, I wonder if they figured the publicity would be so good for sales that it didn’t matter.

  • Jon

    Well I can’t think of any other US politician that has agreed a photoshoot quite like that. Obama’s shirtless photos were splashed around quite a bit and made a few covers, but we’re not talking Newsweek.

  • Frank Hagan

    Why is it that this photo of Palin is considered in poor taste, while the “beefcake” photo of Obama in the surf isn’t? The media often chooses to run the most unflattering photo, and if they can’t find one that is bad enough they hire a cartoonist to do a characterure. In this case, I think its an attempt to choose an image that minimizes her as a political figure and makes her an inconsequential beauty queen.

    Palin has that “naughty school teacher” look that I like, so I’m in favor of it. We need more beauty in life, rather than less. If she looks that good after having five kids, more power to her. If she chooses to pose for the cover of “Cycling World” (or whatever the original magazine was), that’s fine.

    As to the journalistic ethics of running with the photo, well, she is a conservative noted for lack of seriousness, and this is a Newsweek opinion piece that is saying she’s not serious. To differentiate themselves, they have to be controversial, and beating up on Sarah isn’t that controversial.

  • Simon

    Frank, this is why. The photo itself is not in poor taste, its use by Newsweek in this context was.

  • Hanlon

    It’s Sarah Palin. If they showed her reading a book it would be inaccurate.

  • Nick Benjamin

    The only thing that surprised me about this photo, and the public reaction to it, is the insistence that it proves sexism and bias. Last time I checked you couldn’t be sexist if you weren’t biased. Duh.

    Personally I don’t really care about this photo. It tells me that Sarah Palin is hot. I knew that.

    It doesn’t make me disrespect her intellect any more than I did before. IMO smart people do not take a year to answer the question “what newspaper do you read,” smart people do not claim they have foreign policy experience just because they happen to be from a state that’s pretty close to Russia. Heck by that standard all ten million Michigan residents have foreign policy experience. In Ontario the drinking age is 18, and those clever Canadians named their beer store “The Beer Store,” so it’s impossible for a thirsty 19-year-old American to miss.

    OTOH the Obama shirtless photo told me something new about him. I knew the man was skinny, I did not know he had a 6-pack.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Guys, it’s a win/win. Palin supporters enjoy being aggrieved, Palin detractors enjoy laughing at her. Come on, we’re all happy.

  • John Burke

    The thing is that Newsweek isn’t really Newsweek anymore. It used to be that weekly news magazine that was always trying to catch up with Time but had its solid subscription base and loads of expensive glossy corporate identity ads. Its content was mostly written by nameless folk without by-lines because it was catching you up on the news — section by section — with a few strategically placed big features each week. Well, no one wants to buy or advertise in the Newsweek anymore, so it’s dead.

    The new Newsweek is a not-quite-declared liberal journal of opinion. The only reason to read it is because you like one or another of the by-lined opinionated columnists, which you can do online at zero expense. That leaves the legacy print magazine with no conceivable appeal to subscribers, much less anyone left who’s willing to pay the newsstand price. Covers that attract attention have always been a hallmark of Time and Newsweek; now they are the whole thing. Knowing that Palin would this week be rolling out her book with wall-to-wall publicity starting with Oprah and Barbara Walters, Newsweek made the smart choice to go with a cover that both Palin lovers and haters would want to buy — kind of a keepsake. OK, a sexist keepsake, but the “new” Newsweek is going to be dead too unless it does something to make people pay attention.

    As for Palin’s being victimized, sure, the photo was done originally for Runner’s World, where it arguably was more suitable. But if your Palin and the rap against you is that you’re a dizzy dame, why would you pose for such a photo for anyone?

  • Simon

    John, your last point assumes that the photograph itself is problematic. I’m not sure why that would be so. In its original context—the article is here, the photoshoot here, and you can compare them to other Runner’s World article photographs in any Books-a-Million—it isn’t objectionable. What’s objectionable is the use Newsweek put it to. And the fact that even folks like Taylor Marsh share that view really underlines that there’s nothing partisan about the reaction.

  • kranky kritter

    I luvvvvvv stuff like this. First, why did newsweek do this? Giant duhh. To sell magazines and drive eyeballs to their portals. Newsweek sells eyeballs. Period. Get over it folks.

    Simon, you play naive quite well when you want to, don’t you. Here’s a rule for folks with Presidential aspirations…if you pose for a silly, unserious picture, expect it to make you look silly while you’re on the national stage. if your only defense is that someone else failed to play by the Queensbury rules, you’re in the wrong game.

    And I agree with Mike about the win-win. Palinphiles get to play the kind of identity politics that usually only the left gets to play. They get to play aggrieved victims. That frees them from needing to defend Palin’s obvious lack of true substance. Which they can’t do convincingly if polls are any measure. And those of us who know she’s not worth serious consideration get to have a good laugh.

    I’m the first to agree that Sara Palin has been treated quite harshly by the media. Folks with a memory know how often I insisted prior to the VP debate that Palin deserved the chance to be judged directly by each of us during this debate, that we all needed to take our own measure of her and stop focusing on soundbites and editorials and so on.

    And now we know that Palin is a demonstrated lightweight. She is still getting the mileage she’s getting because of the infotainment value. That’s it. The media is helping to sustain the Palin saga by fostering her polishing of the badge of victimhood at the hand of the mythical elite. The cover is vicious. It sells magazines and gives the whole saga fresh legs.

    And it’s perfect. The problem of Sara Palin is that she lacks the candlepower to be a national leader. This is blindingly obvious to at least half of America, more like 3/4 according to some polls. And that’s what the cover viciously portrays.

    It’s way too soon after George Bush for a candidate like Palin to win the Presidency. America talked itself into a C student who wasn’t very serious or well-informed about important policy issues, but who had folksy charisma. And it didn’t work out well. We’ll remember that for 20 or 30 years.

    It’s the competency, stupid.

  • mike mcEachran

    Just want to chime to agree with Simon. One doesn’t get the chance very often. 😉